Name: Holly Rogers
Hometown: Fort Collins, Colorado
Nationality: United States
University: Louisiana State University
Degree: Renewable Natural Resources
Occupation: Aquatic Ecologist (research) at United States Geological Survey
Languages spoken: English, French (beginner), Italian (beginner), Spanish (beginner)
Past travel experience: Moderate
Volunteer Abroad: Middle School Teaching in Accra, Ghana
Duration: 20 weeks
Start month: August 2016
Claim to fame: Holly values efficiency and hard work in every aspect of her life. She is supportive of different lifestyles and genuinely interested in learning about other cultures. UBELONGers are the best, thanks for your service, Holly!
Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
In 2015 I decided to apply for Peace Corps and was nominated for an education position in Ghana. Unfortunately, I was not accepted but over the course of the 6-month process, I got extremely excited and passionate about teaching in Ghana, so I couldn’t let one rejection get in my way. I began to look for alternative ways to get to Ghana and volunteer. I chose UBELONG for four reasons:
- The program fees were affordable.
- There were opportunities in Ghana.
- I could go to Ghana for an extended period of time (I chose 20 weeks).
- The online reviews and approval rates of UBELONG were high.
What did you find most rewarding from your volunteer experience?
I have two aspects that were most rewarding from my time in Ghana; the first aspect was my time with the children. The children both in the primary school where I taught and around Kasoa completely touched my heart. To have anyone so excited to see you every single morning at school or on a short walk to a shop made my day. I loved the curiosity and innocence of the children. In America, we have “stranger danger” so children don’t stop a random adult and say: “Obroni! What is your name? What school do you attend?”. On my last day at the school, I had seven students who refused to go home after school until I had also left. The tears and sad eyes on those little faces broke my heart but at the same time, told me that I did something right in Ghana.
Additionally, I got very close to a local family that I co-sponsored with two other volunteers. As I sit here answering these questions, I have a bowl of “tom-brown” (porridge) in front of me because the family, my Ghanaian family, sent me back to the States with a jar of the dried porridge. I never expected to care so deeply about people who were complete strangers four months ago. I shared so many laughs, smiles, frustrations, and ridiculous moments with the family. I will never forget them and I feel so thankful that I could help them and also learn so much from them.
What three pieces of advice would you give to a future UBELONG Volunteer?
- Be flexible. A developing country is not going to be the same as a Western country so you have to learn to adapt and change your norm. For example, in America, it would probably never take you 30 hours to travel about 700 km, but it Ghana that is exactly what happened to a group of us. We didn’t expect or want to sleep on a bus that was stuck at a road block for 6+ hours but that is life in Ghana. Don’t get frustrated, just be flexible and have a good laugh about the unfortunate situation.
- Be open minded and say “yes” to trying new things. Within reason of course, don’t say “no” to an invitation or food just because it is unknown to you. If a person offers you “fufu”, wash your hand and dig in. You may hate the gooey texture and not prefer the taste but there’s always a chance that you’ll love it like I did. Plus, you can go back to your hometown and tell your friends and family about how you had an unusual meal like fufu.
- Get to know as many locals as you can. Stop to talk to people and ask questions. Getting to know community members around you will make you more comfortable in your new home and will help you to learn more about the culture. The Ghanaians that I got closest to were primarily random people that I said hello to every day and in the end became my Ghanaian family.